Marnus Labuschagne at centre of catch controversy in third Test at SCG

A massive cricket debate has erupted after Marnus Labuschagne earned a somewhat fortunate reprieve from the third umpire.

South Africa's Simon Harper moves to catch a ball edged by Marnus Labuschagne on the left, with Labuschagne laughing on the right.
Marnus Labuschagne enjoyed a stroke of luck when the third umpire overruled a very close caught behind dismissal that went against him on day one of the third Test against South Africa. Pictures: 7Cricket/Getty Images

Fortune has favoured Marnus Labuschagne in the third Test at the SCG, with the batter holding onto his wicket after a lengthy and controversial review. South Africa went up after Labuschagne was tempted into driving a Marco Jansen delivery, only for it to catch a thick edge and seemingly be caught by Proteas spinner Simon Harmer.

Harmer had done well to get behind the quickly dropping edge, wrapping his fingers around it at almost the exact moment it touched the ground. Umpire Paul Reifel referred the decision to the third umpire, but gave a soft indication of out.

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After being run-out in Australia's monster first innings at the MCG, Labuschagne's attempt to get back in the runs appeared to be coming to a premature end. But as the minutes ticked by on third umpire Richard Kettleborough's review, the 28-year-old clearly began to feel more confident his would stay in the middle.

He would do just that when Kettleborough indicated it was not out, having already taken his guard for the next delivery by the time the decision was displayed. However many felt that South Africa and Jansen had every right to feel a little frustrated by the decision.

“I feel as though the South Africans can be quite aggrieved here,” Michael Hussey said on commentary for Fox. “The soft signal was out. I felt like the ball landed on the fingers and he was able to scoop it up.

“His fingers are down, it hits the top of the fingers, pushed it back. I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence there to overturn that decision. That’s just my opinion.”

His co-host Kerry O'Keeffe disagreed in his typically amusing manner, suggesting there was 'enough grass under that to feed a growing cow'. Former Test umpire Simon Taufel also weighed in, crediting Kettleborough for a difficult decision.

Debate erupts over Marnus Labuschagne catch controversy

Taufel pointed out that there were a number of factors complicating his decision, including the camber of the SCG outfield, as well as the technical limitations of various different cameras used around the ground. Those factors added up to a difficult but justifiable bit of umpiring, Taufel said.

“So, Richard really had a tough job with that one, particularly because the camber of the ground slopes away. Obviously Richard felt that the ball hit the ground before getting into the hands. It’s a tough call," he said.

South African players gesture towards Marnus Labuschagne amid confusion at the SCG.
South Africa were left frustrated after Marnus Labuschagne narrowly survived being caught behind, with replays showing the ball had touched the ground. (Photo by Brett Hemmings - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

“That’s where the foreshortening of the lens really becomes a little bit deceptive, when you look at it front on. I think that’s why Richard started with that side-on shot to start with because it looks like the ball is dipping down, but sometimes you’ll get that half-frame in between the ball dipping down and the ball going up, and that’s why the side-on shot is sometimes the better one for the third umpire to look at, but I can understand why South Africa might feel a bit hard done by there.”

Labuschagne would make 79 before he was eventually dismissed by Anrich Nortje, caught behind off an incredibly difficult rising delivery. There was no doubt about the second dismissal, with a clear nick heard and keeper Kyle Verreyne immediately going up in celebreation.

Play was delayed for much of the first day due to rain and bad light in Sydney, and the third session was again halted early due to poor light. Australia remain well placed despite the late loss of Labuschagne, finishing the day on 2/147, with Usman Khawaja (54) and Steve Smith (0) at the crease.

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